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On Volcanic Ash, ICAO Has No Standards, No Answers of EU's African Blacklist

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 21 -- The expectation was of volcanic ash when the two heads of the International Civilian Aviation Organization arranged to speak to the Press on Tuesday. They had come to the UN to meet with Ban Ki-moon, amid ash-trigger flight cancellations which even killed off the UN Security Council's long planned trip to the Congo to try to save its peacekeeping mission.

  But after meeting Ban, they claimed that ash was not among the three main issues discussed: climate change, security against terrorism, and the reconstruction of Haiti.

  Inner City Press asked, about criticism of ICAOs lack of leadership during the six days of flight cancellations. It is up to member states to decide when to close their air space, was the answer. But shouldn't ICAO develop standards, for the effects of ash concentration? It is not easy, the president off ICAO's Council Roberto Kobeh Gonzalez said.

  Inner City Press asked about the decision by the European Union to block -- "blacklist" -- all aircraft from 13 African nations, as well as about the U.S. decisions after the so-called Nigerian underwear bomber.

UN's Ban and ICAO's Benjamin: it's all about the Benjamins

  Raymond Benjamin, ICAO Secretary General, tried to chide Inner City Press for mixing the two issues, and said that the U.S. blockages have all been resolved. But what about the EU blacklist?

  When Pressed, the two men insisted that their only focus was safety. But when Inner City Press asked for their response to many letters asking that ICAO let in Taiwan -- province of China! -- at least as an observer, given the number of flights in and out of Taipei, they shook their heads. So are the letters a waste of time? Yes they are, was the answer from Raymond Benjamin, ICAO Secretary General. Video here. Only at the UN. Leaving the stakeout, one correspondent muttered, "What ashes."

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Congo Trip Canceled by UN Council, Volcano Leaves MONUC in Jeopardy

By Matthew Russell Lee

UNITED NATIONS, April 16 -- The UN Security Council's trip to Africa, already shortened and devalued, has now been canceled in full, French Ambassador Gerard Araud told Inner City Press on Friday morning. The rationale, he said, is the Iceland volcano which makes the Council's flight to Paris and then Kinshasa unpredictable.

  The trip was supposed to be for a week, Friday to Friday. Then once at least three Permanent Five members including the U.S.'s Susan Rice said they were not going, it was shortened to Friday to Tuesday, with side trips to Rwanda and Uganda -- about the Lord's Resistance Army -- cut off. Some said that was to lure Ms. Rice back onto the trip. But if so, it was unsuccessful.

  Now, as airline delays spread after the volcano's eruption, the already embarrassing trip has been canceled. One diplomat who had been slated to go told Inner City Press, "This makes it more difficult to extend the MONUC mission, we cannot convey the message to [DRC President Joseph] Kabila."

Kumalo in Council in the past, contrarian position missed

  With another perspective, as usual, South Africa's Dumisani Kumalo quipped to Inner City Press, "Thank God they're not going to the Congo." Kumalo, previously South Africa's Ambassador to the UN, now works on Great Lakes issues. He is less than impressed with the Council's and the West's work in the Congo. He told Inner City Press he had heard of the Alan Doss nepotism scandal. Click here for that. And watch this site.

 Click here for an Inner City Press YouTube channel video, mostly UN Headquarters footage, about civilian deaths in Sri Lanka.

Click here for Inner City Press' March 27 UN debate

Click here for Inner City Press March 12 UN (and AIG bailout) debate

Click here for Inner City Press' Feb 26 UN debate

Click here for Feb. 12 debate on Sri Lanka

Click here for Inner City Press' Jan. 16, 2009 debate about Gaza

Click here for Inner City Press' review-of-2008 UN Top Ten debate

Click here for Inner City Press' December 24 debate on UN budget, Niger

Click here from Inner City Press' December 12 debate on UN double standards

Click here for Inner City Press' November 25 debate on Somalia, politics

and this October 17 debate, on Security Council and Obama and the UN.

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These reports are usually also available through Google News and on Lexis-Nexis.

Click here for a Reuters AlertNet piece by this correspondent about Uganda's Lord's Resistance Army. Click here for an earlier Reuters AlertNet piece about the Somali National Reconciliation Congress, and the UN's $200,000 contribution from an undefined trust fund.  Video Analysis here

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Other, earlier Inner City Press are listed here, and some are available in the ProQuest service, and now on Lexis-Nexis.

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